Lambda Legal and ARCW File Federal Lawsuit on Behalf of HIV
Positive Woman Denied Surgery by Healthcare Provider
(Milwaukee, WI, February 12, 2009) — Lambda Legal and the AIDS
Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) filed a federal lawsuit
today in the US District Court for the Eastern District of
Wisconsin on behalf of Melody Rose, a 35-year-old Wisconsin
woman who was denied surgery to remove her gallbladder because
she has HIV.
“Discrimination in healthcare remains a major problem for people
living with HIV,” said Peter Kimball, Director of the Legal
Services Program at the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW).
“In violation of both federal and Wisconsin law, Dr. Steven
Cahee refused to provide needed medical treatment to our client,
Lambda Legal and ARCW represent Melody Rose who experienced
health problems with her gallbladder while incarcerated at
Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac. Ultimately,
her physician referred her to Dr. Steven Cahee at the Fond du
Lac Regional Hospital to have her gall bladder removed.
However, Dr. Cahee refused to perform the surgery after learning
Ms. Rose is HIV-positive. Some time thereafter, a surgeon at a
different medical facility removed Ms. Rose’s gallbladder in a
laprascopic procedure, which is considered routine surgery.
Cahee’s actions fly in the face of ethical behavior for a
medical professional,” said Scott Schoettes, Staff Attorney with
Lambda Legal’s HIV Project. “Long ago, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention established that using universal
precautions — which are required in all sorts of medical
situations, including surgeries — makes it extremely unlikely
for the virus to be transmitted in this setting.”
complaint filed today alleges that the defendants –-
Steven M. Cahee, M.D., Agnesian HealthCare, Inc., and Fond du
Lac Regional Clinic, S.C., violated four different state and
federal laws. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its state law
counterpart, which both prohibit disability discrimination by
places of public accommodation (including healthcare providers);
the Rehabilitation Act, which requires recipients of federal
financial assistance not to discriminate against people with
disabilities; and a Wisconsin law addressing HIV discrimination
specifically, which forbids healthcare providers from denying
services to people (or humiliating and degrading them) based
solely on their HIV status.
case is Rose v. Cahee, et al.
Schoettes, HIV Project Staff Attorney, is
handling the case for Lambda Legal.
He is joined by
co-counsel Peter Kimball, of AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.
Lambda Legal: Erin Baer Cell: 646-752-3251; Email:
Bill Keeton 414-225-1572; Cell:
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving
full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men,
bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact
litigation, education and public policy work.
ARCW provides HIV medical, dental and mental health care as well
as legal services, housing assistance, and food pantries to
people with HIV throughout Wisconsin.